How can I remove negative images from Google search results?

How can I remove negative images from Google search results?
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The next in my series of quick and easy SEO Question and Answer blogs: this one from Amanda whose client is struggling to get rid of unpleasant images that appear in the Google image search results


SEO question:

“There’s a group of people who’ve made hate images about my client over the last couple of years and they’ve asked me what’s the quickest way to get them to go down the page on Google.”

As with all these posts, I carry out my own research online and also consult the various SEO expert types I’m connected with. Here’s what I discovered.


Short answer:

When it comes to negative images your best bet is to beat them at their own game by posting positive images both on your site and social media (especially Google+).

Be sure to use the same keywords in your file names, alt text, image titles and descriptions.


Long answer:

It would be nice if there were an easy way to get unpleasant content removed from Google – but sadly there isn’t.

As James Norquay explained to me the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DCMA) probably wouldn’t work in this case unless the content is trademarked, but even then it would be a struggle.

Brands big and small are dealing with the same issue.

Try typing ‘EY’ into Google image search (the abbreviation for Ernst and Young – and also their website domain and you’ll see what I mean. Their brand images are mixed in with some content they’d probably prefer not to be there.

These kinds of problems can quickly get out of hand and can occasionally cause businesses to shut down completely.


Taking the legal route

If you want to go the legal route you could try sending a legal note (cease and desist) to the ISP, the company or party or person(s) responsible. (Thanks Mark Keller)

There may be a case for removing the images as there are Australian laws regarding hate speech – so you could also try reporting each individual image URL for spam.

However, John Mueller (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) did advise that the Google web spam team generally doesn’t take action if it’s just content that you don’t like.

Most SEO types believe that Google won’t remove content like this – as in all honesty it would open a can of worms!


Drowning out the images

Of the all experts I consulted most agreed that the best way to handle the issue would be to push the negative images further down the page by creating new positive pictures.

These images can then be shared on the brand’s website, as well as social media and third party image hosting sites like flickr with descriptive names and captions (that use the same keyword phrases as the haters).


TIP: Remember the higher the authority of the sites featuring the images, the more likely they are to rank above the negative images.


Alec Sharratt advises business to:
‘Ensure images are marked up with as much micro and meta data as possible. Use ‘open graph’ on website images, optimise file names, alt tags, etc. This will enable the images to be read by Google and improve their relevance to the keywords you want them to rank for.”

It’s also a good idea to vary the keyword usage and ensure you cover a broader range of terms so that you can cover any results you might not yet be aware of.


TIP: Another great tip from Alec is to check your robots.txt isn’t disallowing image directories from being indexed on the site. If it is then all your work will be pointless!



Negative link building

Of course there is the option of launching a negative link building campaign against the image creators. But be warned this is a Black Hat SEO and even if you know what you’re doing, it can backfire and you could find yourself blacklisted.

Just as with any form of reputation management, it comes down to three things. 1) delete 2) dilute or 3) both.

Looks like this client is going to have some fun creating awesome, positive images about their brand to drown out the haters.


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